Viruses infecting a warm water picoeukaryote shed light on spatial co-occurrence dynamics of marine viruses and their hosts

Charles Bachy, Charmaine C. M. Yung, David M. Needham, Maria Consuelo Gazitúa, Simon Roux, Alexander J. Limardo, Chang Jae Choi, Danielle M. Jorgens, Matthew B. Sullivan & Alexandra Z. Worden

Abstract – The marine picoeukaryote Bathycoccus prasinos has been considered a cosmopolitan alga, although recent studies indicate two ecotypes exist, Clade BI (B. prasinos) and Clade BII. Viruses that infect Bathycoccus Clade BI are known (BpVs), but not that infect BII. We isolated three dsDNA prasinoviruses from the Sargasso Sea against Clade BII isolate RCC716. The BII-Vs do not infect BI, and two (BII-V2 and BII-V3) have larger genomes (~210 kb) than BI-Viruses and BII-V1. BII-Vs share ~90% of their proteins, and between 65% to 83% of their proteins with sequenced BpVs. Phylogenomic reconstructions and PolB analyses establish close-relatedness of BII-V2 and BII-V3, yet BII-V2 has 10-fold higher infectivity and induces greater mortality on host isolate RCC716. BII-V1 is more distant, has a shorter latent period, and infects both available BII isolates, RCC716 and RCC715, while BII-V2 and BII-V3 do not exhibit productive infection of the latter in our experiments. Global metagenome analyses show Clade BI and BII algal relative abundances correlate positively with their respective viruses. The distributions delineate BI/BpVs as occupying lower temperature mesotrophic and coastal systems, whereas BII/BII-Vs occupy warmer temperature, higher salinity ecosystems. Accordingly, with molecular diagnostic support, we name Clade BII Bathycoccus calidus sp. nov. and propose that molecular diversity within this new species likely connects to the differentiated host-virus dynamics observed in our time course experiments. Overall, the tightly linked biogeography of Bathycoccus host and virus clades observed herein supports species-level host specificity, with strain-level variations in infection parameters.

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Seasonal and Geographical Transitions in Eukaryotic Phytoplankton Community Structure in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Choi CJ, Jimenez V, Needham DM, Poirier C, Bachy C, Alexander H, Wilken S, et al. – Frontiers in Microbiology

Much is known about how broad eukaryotic phytoplankton groups vary according to nutrient availability in marine ecosystems. However, genus- and species-level dynamics are generally unknown, although important given that adaptation and acclimation processes differentiate at these levels. We examined phytoplankton communities across seasonal cycles in the North Atlantic (BATS) and under different trophic conditions in the eastern North Pacific (ENP), using phylogenetic classification of plastid-encoded 16S rRNA amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) and other methodologies, including flow cytometric cell sorting. Prasinophytes dominated eukaryotic phytoplankton amplicons during the nutrient-rich deep-mixing winter period at BATS. During stratification (‘summer’) uncultured dictyochophytes formed ∼35 ± 10% of all surface plastid amplicons and dominated those from stramenopile algae, whereas diatoms showed only minor, ephemeral contributions over the entire year. Uncultured dictyochophytes also comprised a major fraction of plastid amplicons in the oligotrophic ENP. Phylogenetic reconstructions of near-full length 16S rRNA sequences established 11 uncultured Dictyochophyte Environmental Clades (DEC). DEC-I and DEC-VI dominated surface dictyochophytes under stratification at BATS and in the ENP, and DEC-IV was also important in the latter. Additionally, although less common at BATS, Florenciella-related clades (FC) were prominent at depth in the ENP. In both ecosystems, pelagophytes contributed notably at depth, with PEC-VIII (Pelagophyte Environmental Clade) and (cultured) Pelagomonas calceolata being most important. Q-PCR confirmed the near absence of P. calceolata at the surface of the same oligotrophic sites where it reached ∼1,500 18S rRNA gene copies ml–1 at the DCM. To further characterize phytoplankton present in our samples, we performed staining and at-sea single-cell sorting experiments. Sequencing results from these indicated several uncultured dictyochophyte clades are comprised of predatory mixotrophs. From an evolutionary perspective, these cells showed both conserved and unique features in the chloroplast genome. In ENP metatranscriptomes we observed high expression of multiple chloroplast genes as well as expression of a selfish element (group II intron) in the psaA gene. Comparative analyses across the Pacific and Atlantic sites support the conclusion that predatory dictyochophytes thrive under low nutrient conditions. The observations that several uncultured dictyochophyte lineages are seemingly capable of photosynthesis and predation, raises questions about potential shifts in phytoplankton trophic roles associated with seasonality and long-term ocean change.

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